Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 432 out of 500
Accommodation: 174 out of 200
Food: 341 out of 400
Service: 335 out of 400
Entertainment: 91 out of 100
Cruise: 330 out of 400
Overall Score: 1703 out of 2000
Sea Cloud Statistics
Size: Boutique Ship
Cruise Line: Sea Cloud Cruises
Former Names: Sea Cloud of Grand Cayman, IX-99, Antama, Patria, Angelita, Sea Cloud, Hussar
IMO Number: 8843446
Builder: Krupp Werft (Germany)
Original Cost: n/a
Entered Service: 1931/1979
Length (ft/m): 359.2/109.5
Beam (ft/m): 48.2/14.9
Draft (ft/m): 16.8/5.1
Propulsion/Propellers: sail power + diesel (4,476kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 3
Total Crew: 60
Passengers (lower beds): 64
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 39.5
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.1
Cabins (total): 32
Size Range (sq ft/m): 102.2-409.0/9.5-38.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 0
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 0
Wheelchair accessibility: None
Cabin Current: 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): No
Slot Machines: No
Swimming Pools: 0
Hot Tubs (on deck): 0
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Euros
This is simply the most beautiful sailing ship in the world
Overview. Sea Cloud is the most romantic sailing ship afloat. It is best suited to couples and singles (not children) who would probably never consider a ‘normal’ cruise ship, but who enjoy sailing aboard a real tall ship that is packaged to include accommodation, good food, like-minded companions, and interesting destinations. It operates under charter to various travel companies for much of the year, as well for individual bookings.
The Ship. Sea Cloud, a completely authentic 1930s barque whose 80th birthday was celebrated in 2011, is the largest private yacht ever built - three times the size of Captain Cook’s Endeavour - and a stunningly beautiful ship when under sail in both the Caribbean and European/Mediterranean waters. Its four masts are almost as high as a 20-story building, the main one being 178ft (54m) above the Main Deck, and, with its full complement of 32 sails (measuring some 32,292 sq ft (3,000 sq m) billowing in the wind, it really is a sight to behold.
This was the largest private yacht ever built when completed in 1931 by Edward F. Hutton for his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the American cereal heiress. Originally constructed for $1 million as Hussar in the Germany’s Krupp shipyard in Kiel, the steel-hulled vessel saw action during World War II as a weather observation ship, under the code name IX-99.
There is plenty of deck space (but lots of ropes on deck, and other nautical equipment), even under the vast expanse of white sail, and the Promenade Deck outdoors still has wonderful varnished sea chests. The decks themselves are made of mahogany and teak, and wooden steamer-style sunloungers are provided.
One of the most delightful aspects of sailing aboard this ship is its ‘Blue Lagoon,’ located at the stern. Weather permitting, you can lie down on the thick blue padding and gaze up at the stars and night sky - it’s one of the great pleasures - particularly when the ship is under sail, with engines turned off.
The original engine room, with diesel engines, is still in operation for the rare occasions when sail power can’t be used. An open-bridge policy is the norm, except during poor weather or navigational maneuvers.
In addition to its retained and refurbished original suites and cabins, some newer, smaller cabins were added in 1979 when a consortium of German yachtsmen and businessmen bought the ship and spent $7.5 million refurbishing it. The interiors exude warmth and are finely hand-crafted. There is much antique mahogany furniture, fine original oil paintings, gorgeous carved oak paneling, parquet flooring, and burnished brass everywhere, as well as some finely detailed ceilings. Marjorie Merriweather Post had been accustomed to the very finest things in life.
Passengers are not allowed to climb the rigging, as they are aboard some other tall ships. This is because the mast rigging on this vintage sailing ship is of a very different type to more modern sailing vessels such as Royal Clipper, Star Clipper, Star Flyer, and Sea Cloud II. However, passengers may be able participate occasionally in the furling and unfurling of the sails.
A cruise aboard the intimate Sea Cloud is really exhilarating. A kind of stately home afloat, it remains one of the world’s best travel experiences. The activities are few, and so relaxation is the key, in a setting that provides fine service and style, but in an unpretentious way. The only dress-up night is the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Dinner, but otherwise, smart casual clothing is all that is needed.
However, mini-skirts would be impractical because of the steep staircases in some places - trousers are more practical. Also bear in mind that a big sailing vessel such as this can heel to one side occasionally, so flat shoes are preferable to high heels.
Sea Cloud sails, for part of each year, under charter to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. On those occasions, white and red wines and beer are included for lunch and dinner, and soft drinks, espresso and cappuccino coffees are included at any time. Shore excursions are an optional extra, as are gratuities. Details may differ for other charter operators such as Abercrombie & Kent. Gratuities can be charged to your onboard account.
Although now over 80 years young - I doubt if any modern cruise ship will last this long - Sea Cloud is so lovingly maintained and operated that anyone who sails aboard it cannot fail to be impressed. The food and service are good, as is the interaction between passengers and crew, many of whom have worked aboard the ship for many, many years. The crew is of mixed nationality, and the sailors who climb the rigging and set the sails include women as well as men. On a cruise’s last night, the sailors’ choir sings seafaring songs. One bonus is the fact that the doctor on board is available at no charge for medical emergencies or seasickness medication.
Hamburg-based Sea Cloud Cruises also operates companion sailing ship, Sea Cloud II, with 24 sails.
Accommodation. Because Sea Cloud was built as a private yacht, there is a wide variation in cabin sizes and configurations. Some cabins have double beds, while some have twins (side by side or in an L-shaped configuration) that are fixed and cannot be placed together. Many of the original cabins have a fireplace, now with an electric fire.
All the cabins are very comfortable, but those on Main Deck (cabins 1-8) were part of the original accommodation. Of these, the two Owner’s Suites (cabins 1 and 2) are really opulent, and have original Chippendale furniture, fine gilt detailing, a real fireplace, French canopy bed, and large Italian Carrara marble bathrooms with gold fittings.
Owner’s Cabin Number 1 is decorated in white throughout, and has a French double bed, a marble fireplace, and Louis Philippe chairs; the bathroom is appointed in Carrara marble, with cut-glass mirrors, and faucets (taps) in the shape of swans. Owner’s Cabin Number 2, completely paneled in rich woods, retains the mahogany secretary used 60 years ago by Edward F. Hutton, its dark wood decor reminiscent of the 1930s.
Other cabins - both the original ones, and some newer additions - are beautifully furnished. All were refurbished in 1993 and are surprisingly large for the size of the ship. There is a good amount of closet and drawer space and all cabins have a personal safe and telephone. The cabin bathrooms, too, are quite luxurious, and equipped with everything you will need, including bathrobes and hairdryer, and an assortment of toiletries. There is a 110-volt AC shaver socket in each bathroom. The ‘new’ cabins are rather small for two people, so it’s best to take minimal luggage.
There is no cabin food or beverage service. Also, if you occupy one of the original cabins on Main Deck you may be subjected to some noise when the motorized capstans are used to raise and lower or trim the sails. On one day each cruise, an ‘open-house’ cocktail party is held on the Main Deck, with all cabins available for passengers to see.
Dining. The exquisitely elegant dining room, created from the original owner’s living room/saloon, is in the center of the vessel, and also houses the ship’s library. It has beautiful wood-paneled walls and a wood beam ceiling.
There is ample space at each table for open-seating meals. German chefs are in charge, and the high-quality cuisine is very international, with a good balance of nouvelle cuisine and regional dishes, although there is little choice, due to the size of the galley. There is always excellent seafood and fish, purchased locally, when available, as are most other ingredients.
For breakfast and lunch, there are self-serve buffets. European wines accompany lunch and dinner. Soft drinks and bottled water are included in the fare, while alcoholic drinks cost extra. On the last day of each cruise, home-made ice cream is produced.
Entertainment. A keyboard player/singer is available for the occasional soirée, but after-dinner conversation constitutes the main entertainment each evening.
Spa/Fitness. There are no spa or fitness facilities. However, for recreation (particularly at night), there is the Blue Lagoon, an area of seating with blue cushioned pads at the very aft of the ship, where you can lie down and watch the heavens.